Understanding a Student's Learning Profile
*This article was originally posted on ChurchandGospel.com on December 2, 2016.*
Teacher, have you ever sat in your classroom, watching your students walk in and wondered what is going on in their lives? Have you ever experienced surprise as a student provides intricate knowledge of a topic that you did not expect them to know?
There are several factors that contribute to a student’s learning as they enter the classroom: a student’s readiness to learn, a student’s interest in learning, and the student’s learning profile. This article will focus helping to understand the student’s learning profile. The four categories of learning-profile are (1) learning-style preferences, (2) intelligence preferences, (3) culture-influenced preferences, and (4) gender-based preferences. Here we will consider how each of these elements of a student’s learning profile will help the teacher provide maximum impact in faithfully teaching others.
(1) Learning-Style Preferences
In a previous article, I discussed the idea that learning is not a one-size-fits-all method. Though classroom teaching is often associated with a teacher lecturing students sitting still and listening, there are many different elements that contribute to a student’s learning. Lecture remains a viable form of educating as some students learn primarily orally, yet incorporating visual elements such as slides and images projected on a television, or visual aids will assist students that learn visually.
This is a learning style that has been growing more popular as generations are exposed to technology from the moment they are born and have incorporated visual elements to their learning process from day one. Unfortunately this is also a teaching medium that is often misused, as writing text of what is being spoken does not aid in the learning process and can provide a deterrent to the learning, as students then become torn between trying to read what is on the screen and listen to what is being spoken. Incorporating pictures, videos, or props are more effective. Explore the Bible curriculum through LifeWay does a great job of encouraging incorporating this learning style into the teaching process as an object lesson is provided each week, giving the teacher an opportunity to utilize a visual object to assist in the teaching process.
(2) Intelligence Preferences
Each student has a preference for how they learn based on varying intellectual strengths and weaknesses. Based on Howard Garner’s research, each student has varying strengths in combinations of intelligences he calls “verbal linguistic, logical mathematical, visual spatial, musical rhythmic, bodily kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic” (How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms, Carol Ann Tomlinson, p. 62). Robert Sternberg previously had identified varying strengths in combination of intelligences between analytic, practical, and creative.
Knowing how a person tends to process information goes a long way in understanding how best to present important material to allow your students their best chance at learning new information. Remember, your job as a teacher is to help your students learn the information. If they are not learning, then you are not teaching!
(3) Culture-Influenced Preferences
Each student’s culture affects how he or she learns as well. Be careful not to merely assume cultural influence in your students, but work to understand the range of learning preferences that a group of students will contain. Create a classroom flexible enough to let students learn and guests feel welcome to learn in a manner they find most productive.
A great way to learn about your student’s cultural influences is to spend time getting to know your students. Engage in conversations and ask questions that help you learn. Coming to class prepared to teach your lessons allow you the freedom to focus on your students and learning about them rather than worrying about what you are about to teach and trying to cram last minute for your lecture.
This is an area that provides an unfortunate challenge to most churches today. Despite the United States of America being known as a melting pot for cultural integration, churches in America tend to continue to remain segregated. The church continues to do itself a disservice by continuing to remain segregated since the Lord has created each of us uniquely, in His likeness, with gifting designed specifically to provide a glimpse into His infinite character, qualities, and to reveal His glory.
(4) Gender-Based Preferences
Finally, gender also contributes to how a student learns. This is a portion of the learning profile that will become more challenging for the teacher in the secular environment as gender fluidity has become culturally accepted, yet research has shown that gender impacts a student’s learning. For example, males are typically more inclined to prefer competitive learning, but some males may prefer collaborative learning and some females may prefer competitive learning.
If your classroom consists primarily of males or females, utilize these tendencies more heavily to provide unique teaching designed to aid in their learning. If your classroom is mixed between men and women, consider balancing time between using competitive learning and collaborative learning into your teaching time.
Beloved, consider that each student is unique and wonderfully made. Made in the image of God, their value as part of His creation places their development and growth as significant to the development and the growth of the Kingdom. Continue to study your students and be a student of your students. Consider how your students naturally tend to learn, their preferences, their learning styles, their intelligence preferences, how their culture has influenced them, and how their gender factors into their learning. You have been entrusted with their care. May you be a good steward of God’s children that have been entrusted into your care.